How to Discover What You REALLY Want in Your Dream Home

Here’s a fun way to pinpoint your style when your Pinboards have run amuck.

Raise your hand if you have a whole slew of Pinterest boards chock-full of what your dream house is going to look like. Keep your hand raised if you have no idea how to actually achieve that look.

Now take that hand that’s still in the air and softly pat your cheek, repeating the words, “It’s going to be OK. Mandi is going to help me.”

If you’re like 99% of Pinterest users, your boards are brimming with pictures of beautiful spaces — spaces you’d love to live in. Here, I’m sharing all my tips for narrowing down those 15,000 pins into an exact definition of what YOU love.

We’re going to approach this in three steps:

  1. The broad approach, where we get a sense of your general style
  2. The next-level approach, where we evaluate permanent fixtures, like cabinet fronts
  3. The detailed approach, where we get a sense for finishes and furniture

1. What’s Your General Vibe?

The first thing is to look at your pins broadly. Are 85% of the kitchens that you have pinned filled with white brightness? Do you repeatedly pin soaring loft spaces with exposed brick? What are the colors, tones, and styles that you’re drawn to?

Pick up on the vibe that your boards are putting off.

2. What Features Do You Love?

Now, narrow it down a little. Say you love white kitchens. Is there a certain style of cabinet front that you keep pinning? Do all the pictures have subway tile with dark grout? Are the floors light tones or dark tones? Are your pins pointing you toward dark accent walls or a certain style of window?

3. What Accents Do You Adore?

After you’ve narrowed things down, look more closely at the details. Do you have an obsession with brass hardware or raw wood dining tables?

When I pin something inspiring, I always write in the pin’s description what I LOVE about the picture (whether it’s the light or the shape of a pillow). That way, I can focus on that one item and the rest just sort of falls away.

Last, and most importantly, will your choices work with your lifestyle? It’s easy to get wrapped up in white floors, white walls, and white cabinets, and to picture a perfect house that’s gleaming clean 100% of the time. But is that realistic for your life? Do you have a gaggle of children who like to destroy your house? Do you entertain a lot and need more than one piece of minimalist furniture?

After you’ve narrowed everything down, use your intel to search for materials in that style (i.e., a white kitchen scheme with shaker cabinets and brass hardware). Then take one final gut check to see if it’s the direction your heart’s been leading you all along.

Happy house hunting!



Slow cooked flank steak, green peppers an onions come alive in this flavorful Cuban-Style Slow Cooker Flank Steak recipe. This delicious Paleo flank steak recipe uses a traditional Cuban spice blend of cumin, oregano, garlic and bay leaves to evoke island flavors and aromas. It’s made in the slow cooker, so you can throw it together and then return home after work to a piping hot, mouth-watering meal. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Recipe makes 4 servings.
Approximate Prep Time: 20 minutes
Approximate Cook Time: 4-7 hours


1/2 cup(s) chicken broth
2 teaspoon(s) cumin
11/2 teaspoon(s) oregano, dried
1 teaspoon(s) sea salt, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon(s) black pepper, to taste (optional)
1 can(s) tomatoes, diced (14 oz)
1 medium onion(s), sliced
2 medium bell pepper(s), green, sliced
2 medium garlic clove(s), chopped
1 tablespoon(s) capers, chopped
11/2 pound(s) beef – flank steak(s), cut crosswise into three pieces
1/4 cup(s) olives, pimento-stuffed, sliced


  1. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, mix together the chicken stock, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper (if using).
  2. Add the tomatoes and their juices, onions, peppers, garlic and capers and stir to combine.
  3. Place the flank steak on top of the mixture, partially covering with a few tablespoons of the vegetables and liquid.
  4. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low 6-7 hours.
  5. Shred steak with two forks, add olives and mix all contents together.

Defying Predictions, Mortgage Rates Are Dropping—Here’s Why

Anxious would-be home buyers have been watching mortgage interest rates finally begin ticking up again in 2017, after years of historical lows. And when the Federal Reserve raised the short-term interest rate in March, the conventional wisdom was that mortgage rates would follow suit—as they typically do.

But that’s not happening this time around. Despite a Fed hike just last month and two more looming on the horizon, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell back below 4% for the first time since November, according to Freddie Mac.

They were at just 3.97% as of Thursday, down from 4.08% the previous week and a high of 4.3% for the year, on March 16.

So what’s going on?

“If you had an answer to that question, you’d probably make millions trading on Wall Street,” says Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research at the National Association of Realtors®. “Interest rates are really tricky to predict.”

Yet even a small change in the interest rate can be a game changer for buyers. A fraction of a percentage point can add up to hundreds of extra dollars a year in mortgage payments. And that extra money can make a real difference in the kinds, sizes, and locations of homes that buyers can afford.

What’s really driving down mortgage interest rates

Mortgage interest rates are influenced by the Federal Reserve’s short-term interest rates, but in fact they’re more closely tied to the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond market. That’s because as investments, bonds and mortgages are similar: Investors consider them significantly safer bets than the more volatile stock market.

So when investors got spooked by the rising stock market (fearing a downturn) and the unpredictability of the current U.S. administration, they put their money into bonds. And since mortgage rates are generally an inverse reflection of the strength of the bond market, when bonds are up, mortgage interest rates drop.

“Investors are a little skeptical because the stock market keeps climbing,” says Don Frommeyer, a mortgage officer at Marine Bank in Indianapolis. “They’re looking for safe ways to invest their money, and they’re going back to the bond market.”

They’re also not quite as optimistic about how quickly President Donald Trump‘s infrastructure plans will come to fruition, after having invested in sectors expected to profit from those plans. So they’re turning back to bonds.

“Now people are re-evaluating and coming to the conclusion that [these promises] are going to take a lot longer than they expected,” says Freddie Mac’s chief economist, Sean Becketti.

How long the downward trend might last

The lower rates aren’t just confined to conservative 30-year fixed-rate loans. Rates averaged 3.23% on 15-year fixed-rate loans and 3.1% on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages as of Thursday, according to Freddie Mac.

“It’s good news for people who are already in the market,” says Hale. “Lower mortgage rates translate into a lower monthly payment.”

But this situation might not last. With two more Fed hikes expected this year, mortgage rates are likely to fall back in line with their usual pattern. They’re anticipated to keep going up gradually, Hale adds.

Of course, life can always throw us a curveball.

“There’s so much uncertainty and volatility in the market,” there’s no way of knowing what the mortgage rates will do next, says Becketti.

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Minimalist Spaces That Feel Oh So Luxe

5 ways to get that sleek, Scandinavian look even though real life is messy.

It’s amazing how fast items can start to take up room in my house. Like most people, it’s not as though I intend to build up clutter; I just find it hard to get rid of things as fast as I accumulate them, both for sentimental reasons and because it’s so easy to procrastinate on getting organized.

But lately, I’ve been making more of an effort to eliminate excess items in my home, and the idea of living more simply has stolen my attention (as if someone just told me there’s cake nearby).

I love the look and wish I could incorporate the Scandinavian / uncluttered trend more often, but it can be tough to limit items when you’re always remodeling the way I do (since home renovation requires a lot of power tools and supplies).

That’s partly the reason why I like to look through so many minimalist interiors as inspiration. When done the right way, incorporating this design style has some serious appeal and personality. Just a few appropriate cozy and visually interesting elements are all it takes to get the clean but comfy look I crave.

Here are the five things that make me swoon over minimalist rooms.

1. Natural Wood

Look at a spread of minimalist home design photos and you’ll quickly notice how natural wood tones are key to ensuring that the space feels less stark. For me, it’s warm wood shades like maple, honey, and walnut that add the most drama without overwhelming.

Take for example the wooden doors in my friend Ann Marie’s old kitchen — it has just the right amount of visual contrast while still looking spotlessly clean:

This DIY coffee table from “I Spy DIY” also keeps it simple, but it’s the natural tone of the wood and the textured sides of the slab that make it far from boring (and also warm up the grays in the rest of the room).

2. Exposed Brick

If you look at pictures of minimalist rooms, architectural details take center stage, such as an accent wall of exposed brick. Even if you whitewash or paint the brick to match the other walls (or even go with veneer for the same effect, like Mandi Gubler did in the photo below), the variation in texture adds charm.

3. Warm Metallics

Minimalism is traditionally associated with stark white and black, which often can feel harsh, but you can include accents of color that warm up the room without disturbing their minimalist appeal.

Warm metallic tones are perfect for this. Shades of copper and gold continue that sleek, simple look while amping up the luxe factor. Ashley’s (“Hither and Thither”) home is full of these kinds of details (as well as a few more elements on this list):

4. Textured Fabrics

In the same vein as a brick wall, warmth and coziness can be added through fabric and other items that add texture instead of color. I suppose sometimes the mix of textiles in design is more aligned with the concept of Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) the Danish word for coziness and a concept for living simply. But a chunky knit throw blanket or a nice textured rug can add depth as well as invite friends to settle in.

In my own living room, I like to keep the color scheme fairly neutral, but it’s the textures on the pillows and planters that provide the little details that keep the room from looking too blah.

Provided that you cleanly edit the color choices, minimalism is all about keeping balance around the room. Amy of “Homey Oh My” (below) shows this idea off well in her living room with a textured rug and a simple basket for storing items to keep clutter off the coffee table.

Emma’s cowhide rug and two-by-four coffee table (and oh look … natural wood again!) follow right along with this style, too.

5. Plants, Plants, Plants

It’s never a bad idea to bring more of the outside in (well, except maybe pests). But have you noticed the last element that keeps sleek rooms looking lively? Plants! Whether it’s bouquets of flowers or potted houseplants, varied height plays a big role in keeping things looking uncluttered. I think the greenery adds a lot of life and cheer (especially in routinely disappointing spaces, like my laundry room).

Maybe it’s about getting older and realizing that I am happier when I have less around me to feel anxious about (or clean). Or maybe it’s the desire to need less. Or maybe it’s just with so much else keeping me busy on a daily basis, adding more negative space (subtracting to add, I suppose?) is the calm I need at the end of the day.

But regardless of the reason, I’m getting better at figuring out how much nicer a home is without a bunch of clutter in my way.

Article by Sarah Fogle

How Pets Can Help You Sell Your Home

It all started with Chompers the corgi, starring in a video to sell a San Francisco home in 2015. Then in Tiffany, a 5-year-old Shih Tzu mix whose owner, a real estate agent in Australia, started placing the pooch in listing photos, resulting in “nearly double” the page views and a slew of sales.

Then the furry floodgates opened wide. Now there’s even a website, Pet Realty Network, devoted to helping animal lovers find pet-friendly real estate agents and property.

Not too long ago, pets were considered a serious hindrance to the home-selling process—cuddly companions that should be hidden at all costs. So what caused the change of heart?

For one, the ever-growing number of animal lovers—56% of homes now have pets—may have helped turn the tide. But more than that, furry faces are just plain good advertising, touching on our emotions without getting too personal. The Internet proves this thousands of times a day when videos such as “Cat vs. Cucumber: Guess Who Wins” get a zillion views.

When used for real estate purposes a pet “solidifies the American dream: the kids, the dog, the whole package,” explains Sherron Lawrence of Realty National.

So how do you leverage Quilty the canary dog to help you sell your place?

“It’s all about showcasing the attractive things and putting away the unattractive,” explains Kyra Frankel of White Space Staging. If you’re wondering where to draw that line as pet owner (news flash: not everything Olly the dachshund does is cute, endearing, or irresistible), here are some tips for every area of your home.

Key word: attractive. Don’t put some ratty old thing that’s been dragged through the mud on display. If you have a cotton, canvas, or fabric leash, toss it in the washing machine to give it new life, or pick up a new one that complements the decor. Fake it if you have to. There are many stylish ones out there these days, such as this blue-and-black option from See Scout Sleep.


Find a cute treats container to display on the counter, and think about upgrading your animal’s standard water bowl with a sparkly new (and stylish) one.

“A fresh bowl of water paints the right picture,” says Lawrence. This one from Docapet can play off the stainless-steel accents in your kitchen and fit right into the decor.

Living room

While showing off framed photos of family is considered a serious no-no, “it’s OK to leave framed dog and cat photos,” says Louise Whittet of White Space Staging. “More and more listings are doing this, as well as shelter magazines and websites. It isn’t as personal as a family photo, but it’s successful in implying a space for all types.”


“A faux sheepskin throw rug can be seen as a romantic element,” explains Frankel, “or also a cozy spot for a pet to curl up.” Alternatively, place a new, or at least nice and clean, dog bed at the foot of yours. While on the pricier side, these Mungo & Maud pet beds are so chic, we’d sleep on them.

“Dog or cat beds and baskets—if they’re clean and have a sensible place to be—are great,” says Frankel. “But stash the chew toys.”


“I’ve suggested that sellers repaint the doghouse with a fresh coat,” says Lawrence. “It freshens it up quickly.” Just remember to stick to light colors, as darker shades absorb the sun and heat.

But the most important tip: Make sure the backyard is immaculate (read: no poop. None. Whatsoever. BTW, did we mention No poop?) before showing your property. You want your pet-friendly listing to be memorable for the right reasons.

And remember, the one mood killer to avoid at all costs is any kind of animal scent: Whether it’s the whiff of cat litter or just an overall doggy smell, any odor or hair can drive off a buyer in an instant.
Lawrence lays it out simply: “No smell, no problem.”
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How to Remove Stripped Screws, Fill Nail Holes, and Other Home Hacks

Our homes are full of small, but mind-boggling challenges, such as: Is there a way to remove stripped screws? Or eliminate those water rings on your coffee table, or those divots where your table once sat on your carpet? If you’re looking for answers to common conundrums you might encounter, a new book can help: “Tidy Hacks: Handy Hints to Make Life Easier.”

Written by home hack expert Dan Marshall (also author of Life Hacks: Helpful Hints to Make Life Easier and Dad Hacks: Helpful Hints to Make Life Easier), this modern-day maintenance manual is geared to people who have no time for home maintenance. The fix-its that it recommends are insanely easy to accomplish. And since we’re all about making homeownership easier, check out a few of these genius tips below.

How to remove stripped screws

Can’t put in (or take out) a screw because that X-marked divot is too worn to turn with your screwdriver? Place a flat rubber band over the top of the screw head, and insert the screwdriver so it pins the rubber band in place. The rubber band will give you enough grip to remove the screw with ease.


How to shine shoes with a banana

The combination of the potassium found in bananas (which is also an ingredient of shoe polish) and the natural oils in a banana peel makes a great natural leather shoe polish. So when your shoes need shining and you’re in a pinch with no shoe polish around, reach for the next best thing: a banana. Rub the inside of the peel on your shoes to buff away the scuff.


How to organize cleaning supplies

Get your cleaning supplies out of that awkward low cabinet under your sink. If you hang up a shoe organizer in an area that is easy to reach, like the back of your laundry-room door, you can store them handily, without turning yourself into a pretzel. The best part? Close the door, and you won’t have to look at the bleach and Windex until it’s time to start cleaning.


How to avoid tangled Christmas lights

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, there comes a time when every well-decorated home must lose its Christmas lights.

Some of us are all too familiar with throwing them into a storage box and calling it a day—only to spend hours untangling them next year. Allow us to suggest a better way to keep knots out of your lights: Take an extra three minutes to find some wire hangers and wrap the strands around them. This will space the bulbs at regular intervals, so that they are less likely to break.

How to fill nail holes

For many people, hanging a picture or a piece of art isn’t an exact science, and it often involves a certain amount of trial and error. If you happen to hammer a nail into the wrong spot on the wall, grab a crayon that matches the color of the paint and draw on the hole until it is filled. Wipe away any excess wax with a clean cloth.



How to get rid of a water ring

How dare your guests ruin your beautiful wood table with their damp drinking glasses? Don’t lose your head, though, because you have this ingenious trick to remove the liquid stain. Turn a hairdryer on high heat and hold it close to the water mark. It will start to disappear before your eyes! Keep the heat on the ring until it’s completely gone.


How to get rid of dents in the carpet

Rearranging the furniture in your bedroom or living room can be an exciting way to reinvigorate your home decor, but a heavy table or armoire is sure to leave unsightly dents in your carpet. Believe it or not, the secret of getting rid of those dents is hiding in your freezer. Simply place ice cubes along the indents, leave them there until the ice has melted, and then vacuum over the area to fluff up the fibers.


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1/2 head(s) cabbage(s), green, chopped
1 medium apple(s), tart, (Granny Smith recommended), grated or chopped
1 large celery stalk(s), chopped
1 medium bell pepper(s), chopped
1/4 cup(s) olive oil
1 medium lemon(s), juiced
2 tablespoon(s) honey, raw
1 teaspoon(s) celery seed
1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt


  1. Toss the cabbage, apple, celery, and bell pepper together in a large bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk remaining ingredients.
  3. Drizzle over coleslaw and toss to coat.

What Is the Standard Down Payment on a House?

“Down payment”: It’s amazing that these two little words have such a profound influence on your homeownership process—and your life! Ask most people what is an acceptable down payment on a house, and nine times out 10 they’ll tell you it’s 20% of your home’s selling price. So you do the math, figure you’d have to put down $50,000 on a $250,000 house, and break out in hives when you realize that the chances of your getting out of that tiny one-bedroom apartment are slim.

Well chin up, buckaroo. That 20% figure is common, but it’s not set in stone. Sure, there are many reasons why you should make a 20% down payment on a house, but most banks will allow you to put down less—and yes, you can put down even more if you’re feeling flush.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of making a number of different down payments on a house.

When your down payment is 20%

It might sound like a huge chunk of change, but you’ll ultimately end up paying less if you make a 20% or higher down payment on a house. That’s because when you put 20% down, you won’t have to pay mortgage insurance, which can add several hundred dollars a month to your house payments.

“Mortgage insurance exists because the lender … assumes additional risk when a homeowner’s equity stake is small,” mortgage banker Craig Berryexplains in The Mortgage Reports.

Both private lenders and the Federal Housing Administration have mortgage insurance plans. No matter which you chose, you’ll likely have to pay a one-time fee upfront and then another amount of money that will be tacked onto your monthly mortgage.

The only good thing about mortgage insurance is that it doesn’t last forever. When your loan-to-value ratio is 80% (or you have paid the equivalent of 20% of your home’s value), you can ask your lender to stop charging you for the insurance. Once the loan-to-value ratio reaches 78%, the lender is legally obligated to cancel it.

Another advantage of making a 20% down payment on a house is that that’s often the magic number at which point you’ll get a more favorable interest rate. So you can see the various advantages to saving up for that 20% down payment if it’s possible.

When your down payment is under 20%

If you are unable to make a 20% down payment, there are many lenders that will allow you to make a smaller down payment on a house. Among them is the FHA, which offers mortgages with as little as 3.5% down, if your annual income is under a certain amount that varies by market. There are even some lenders, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that allow you to put 0% down, but eligible homes are usually in rural areas, and your income must meet certain low requirements.

Although you can find decent terms when you put less than 20% down, remember that since you’ll be financing a greater amount, no matter how favorable the terms you negotiate, your payments will be higher and you’ll be paying more interest, so the home will ultimately be more expensive.

When your down payment is over 20%

People who inherit a windfall sometimes choose to put more than 20% down, so their payments will be lower and they can avoid mortgage insurance payments. But others, with very low credit ratings, are required by the lender to put more than 20% down. According to Robert Bergerin U.S. News & World Report, if your credit score is under 620, you’ll probably have to put more than 20% down to get a conventional loan.

Down payment hope and help

There is a surprising amount of down payment and home loan assistanceout there for those in need. It comes in the form of low-interest-rate loans, grants, and tax credits. According to Sean Moss of, in some cities you can get as much as $100,000 in assistance for purchasing your first home.

Of course, most of these programs depend on factors like your income, a maximum home price, and even your profession. For example, government employees in the Washington, DC, area may be eligible for $10,000 in down payment assistance, and teachers in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, can get up to $15,000 to help them with their home purchases. Ask your real estate agent about these types of programs that you are eligible for.

For most people, a home is the biggest financial commitment they’ll make, but don’t let that intimidate you. If you’re serious about owning your own place, there are lots of resources out there to help make this into a reality.

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Why Do Dogs Smell Like Corn Chips? 10 Fascinating Facts About Pets

In honor of the furry, scaly, and sometimes slimy companions who live under our roofs, we thought it’s only fitting to lay out some warm and fuzzy, wild ‘n’ crazy facts about pets. Like: Are dogs or cats more popular? Where do they sleep, and do we celebrate their birthdays? The answers to these burning questions will get you appreciating these creatures even more than you do already.

How many of us have pets?

A whole lot. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 48.4% of U.S. households have at least one pet.

Which are more popular: Dogs or cats?

That depends on how you count. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36% of households own dogs while 30% own cats. So Fido wins, right? Not so fast. Apparently there are more cats per household (2.1) than dogs (1.6).

Hey, what about other animals?

Let’s not ignore our feathered and scaly friends. Here are the numbers of households that cater to rarer home companions:

  • Fish: 7.7 million
  • Birds: 3.6 million
  • Horses: 1.7 million
  • Rabbits: 1.4 million
  • Turtles: 1.3 million
  • Hamsters: 877,000
  • Guinea pigs: 847,000
  • Lizards: 726,000
  • Gerbils: 234,000
  • Ferrets: 334,000

City with the most (and least) pets

Tucson, AZ, is the city with the most pets (nearly 60%), according to the U.S. Census. Meanwhile, New York City hangs at the bottom, with only about 20% of households having animals.

How much do pets cost?

You might pick up one at the pound for free, but it’ll still cost you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average U.S. household spends just over $500 per year on pets. That’s more than they spend on alcohol, phone lines, or men’s or boys’ clothes (because let’s face it, your pooch needs a cute sweater way more than Dad does).

So what do pets do for us?

Pets may gnaw our shoes, shred our couches, and drain our bank accounts, but they give back plenty. According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners were less lonely and preoccupied than those who didn’t have a furry companion greeting them at their front door. Pet owners were also more physically fit, boasted greater self-esteem, and were more outgoing. All in all, pet owners are happier people.

What about the strays?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 6.5 million animals enter shelters every year. Sadly, 1.5 million end up euthanized, but that number is down from the past, thanks largely to the fact that 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted by loving families. An additional 710,000 animals were just lost, and get returned to their owners.

Do we celebrate their birthdays?

Among pet owners, 45% say they get their pets a birthday present and 64% also get a gift for the holidays. Because honestly, don’t we all deserve a new squeaky toy on occasion?

Where do they sleep?

According to Harris Polls, 81% of cat owners let their felines lounge on the bed, while 73% of dog owners allow their canines the same sleeping privileges.

Why do dogs’ paws smell like corn chips?

Now for the question that’s been stumping dog owners for decades: It’s a condition nicknamed “Frito feet,” which describes how dogs’ paws smell just like this delicious snack.

Turns out, it could be due to the Proteus bacteria, which is found on dogs’ feet and gives off a sweet, yeasty odor. It’s no cause for alarm; however, if you don’t love the smell, well, that’s just one more reason to keep your dog off the bed, right?

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How to Clean a Mattress (Yes, You Can—and Should)

Among the most-used household items, the mattress is one that doesn’t get cleaned nearly as often as it should. Think about it: You use it nearly every day—for sleeping, for sitting, for jumping, for, uh, other activities—yet many of us think just changing the sheets is enough to keep it clean. Beyond that, you might be stumped on how to clean a mattress. But don’t sweat it.

The next time you change the sheets, pull off the mattress pad and take a look at what lies beneath. See a few stains? Catch a whiff of something funky? It could be perspiration that seeps through bedclothes into the mattress, or dead skin cells you shed at night, or even the remains of mites that burrow into mattresses. Gross.

Follow these tips at least two times a year to keep your mattress looking and smelling its best. You might even have a better night’s sleep because of it.

How to flip a mattress

Start by moving your bed away from the wall.

Rotate and flip your two-sided mattress. (Do not flip a pillow-top mattress.)

This will extend the life of the mattress and prevent sagging. You knew this, right? Lots of people put off this basic task until it’s too late. But go ahead—enlist a partner to lift it up and over. If in doubt, read the mattress tags or check with the manufacturer for specific recommendations. During the rearranging process, move the bed frame, vacuum or sweep the floor underneath, and clean the bed frame. Dust the headboard and footboard.

Remove odors from your mattress

To make your mattress smell sweet, sprinkle a solution of baking soda and essential oils on it. Simply pour 1 cup baking soda into a bowl and add a few drops of oil like chamomile, sandalwood, or lavender (all of which have soothing scents). Spread the mixture on the mattress or evenly distribute with a flour sifter. Use a bristled cleaning brush to rub it into the mattress. Let it set for at least an hour.

Suck up the baking soda mixture by using a portable vac, or the hand-held extension of your vacuum cleaner. This helps eliminate dust mites, which are too small to see, but can live in mattresses. Mites can cause hay fever and asthma, and have been linked to other conditions, including allergies and migraine headaches. Vacuuming can also get rid of dead skin cells, pet hair, and other debris.

If your mattress still reeks, spray on a citrus-based cleaning product and then vacuum the mattress.

How to get blood stains out

Yikes! Whether due to nosebleeds, visits from Aunt Flo, or God knows what else, you might end up with a bloodstained mattress from time to time. Here are ways to clean the spots, courtesy of

  1. Blot the stained area with a wet cloth to remove any excess blood. Then blot it with a dry cloth.
  2. Mix together a half-cup cornstarch, 1 tablespoon salt, and a quarter-cup hydrogen peroxide. Apply the paste to the stain, and let it dry completely.
  3. Scrape away the dried paste and vacuum.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

How to clean urine from a mattress

If kiddos or pets crawl onto your bed and have an unexpected accident, use this method, from, to clean up the mess.

  1. Blot the stained area with a cloth to remove any excess urine.
  2. Make a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Spray it on the stain, and let sit for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Cover entire area with baking soda. Let stand for eight to 10 hours.
  4. Vacuum up the baking soda.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

All other stains

Most other stains can be treated using one of these solutions.

  1. Cover the stains with a mixture of a quarter-cup liquid dishwashing detergent and a few teaspoons of water. Put the foam on the stain, and rub it in circular motions with a sponge. Let the mattress dry before making the bed.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar; spray the stain. Let the vinegar set for approximately five minutes. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot, and leave it on until the fizzing stops. Soak it up with a towel, and vacuum the residue. If the stain remains, use a wet sponge and hydrogen peroxide to blot the stain in a circular motion.
  3. Rent a self-service steam carpet cleaner with an upholstery attachment ($30 to $50 a day). Spot-clean the mattress according to the manufacturer’s instructions, taking care not to oversoak the mattress. Make sure you suck up as much moisture as possible, and then open the windows to help the drying process, or use a hair dryer on the spot.
  1. As a last resort, apply an enzymatic pet stain remover, and let it set for 15 minutes before wiping with a damp cloth and vacuuming.
  2. If your DIY approaches don’t work, consider a mattress cleaning professional, who will charge $25 to $75, according to Angie’s List.

Remember to clean a stain as soon as possible before it soaks into the mattress pad and sets into the mattress. Care tips are the same for a regular mattress as one with memory foam.

How to wash pillows and other bed accessories

Avoid tossing decorative throw pillows on the floor. Keep them clean by placing them on a chair or bench near the bed.

To care for the pillows you sleep on, read the care labels and follow the directions. In general, you can wash your pillows in warm water on a gentle cycle. Tumble dry with a few rubber dryer balls to keep the filling from clumping.

Foam pillows need to be hand-washed in a tub and air-dried.

There’s no better time than now to give your mattress some much-needed TLC. Sweet dreams!

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This Cashew Broccoli with Lemon recipe is really easy to make and absolutely delicious! Broccoli and cashews belong together in this dish which is perfectly complemented with a citrus amino dressing. This cashew broccoli dish is not only Paleo, but can easily be made vegan friendly if you use olive oil in place of the ghee. Served with a side of lean chicken or fish and your taste buds will be in heaven!


2 head(s) broccoli, separated into 1 inch sections
1/2 cup(s) ghee, or olive oil
1 medium lemon(s), juiced
1/8 teaspoon(s) sea salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon(s) black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup(s) cashews, halved
1 medium garlic clove(s), chopped
1 medium onion(s)
1/2 cup(s) coconut aminos
1 medium orange(s), juiced


  1. Steam the broccoli until just starting to get tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the ghee and lemon juice. Add the broccoli, cashews, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Saute for 5 minutes or until the mixture starts to brown.
  3. Add the coconut aminos and orange juice to the mixture and cook on low heat for 5-8 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve hot over cauliflower rice.

What Is Mortgage Fraud? Steer Clear of These 3 Offenses

There are white lies, and then there’s mortgage fraud. Yes, sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference, but it’s essential for home buyers to understand exactly where the line is drawn, because the consequences can be dire if you cross it. So what is mortgage fraud?

Mortgage fraud is deception about your financial circumstances or how you’re going to use the property that you purchase. If fraud is detected at any time during the mortgage process, your loan will be declined and you will be out any funds you’ve already paid, such as the appraisal fee or your earnest money deposit, says Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser at C2 Financial Corp. and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

And even if your loan closes, that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten away with any deception. If it’s caught later, your lender is likely to call the loan, meaning the entire amount would be immediately due, forcing you to try to refinance or sell the home.

Did we scare you? We didn’t mean to—actually, we sort of did. But we mostly want to impart the seriousness of mortgage fraud. So, read up and make sure you’re not one of the suckers pleading, “But I didn’t know!”

Here are the three main types of mortgage fraud most likely to trip up home buyers.

Offense No. 1: Occupancy fraud

There are two varieties of occupancy fraud.

1. Purchasing an investment property, but claiming it will be your personal residence.There’s a reason people are tempted to do this: cold, hard cash.

“The cost premium on an investment property is typically 2.5% of the loan amount in up-front fees, or 0.625% to 1% higher in interest rates,” says Fleming.

While those savings are tempting, it’s relatively easy to get caught. Lenders will look closer if the property is multiple units, such as a duplex; considerably smaller or less expensive than your current residence; or located far from where you work. Of course, many people downsize or telecommute, but these factors are likely to raise a red flag.

2. Claiming your home will be a vacation home when you intend to rent it out, or that it will be a primary residence when it’s going to be a second home. Here again, location would raise a red flag, though for the opposite reason: You’re unlikely to buy a second home where you live. If you’re buying in a beach or mountain town, or another obvious resort location that screams “second home,” you’ll have to cite evidence that you plan to live there as your primary residence.

And before you’re tempted to say, “Yeah, I’m living in Hawaii, want to make something of it?,” know that many mortgage lenders will make something of it. One tool they are turning to is the LexisNexis Verification of Occupancy, which uses public and proprietary records to analyze 16 different components of occupancy evidence to try to root out the fibbers. Don’t be one of them.

Offense No. 2: Hiding debt

A lender decides how much home you can afford based on your monthly debt-to-income ratio—that is, the total of all your monthly debts, divided by your gross monthly income. So if you aren’t giving your lender the straight scoop on your debts, it’s basing its assessment on false numbers.

And don’t even contemplate trying to hide what you owe. There are ways of spotting debt that doesn’t show up on your credit report, Fleming warns. For example, most debts require regular monthly payments, which is one reason why your lender is so eager to paw through at least two months of bank statements.

“If they show identical payments going out to someone two months in a row, an underwriter is likely to ask what it’s for, and potentially flag it as debt,” says Fleming.

There are other debts that might not be reported to the credit bureaus, yet still show up on a public record. For example, an IRS repayment schedule for unpaid taxes would not be a “lien” per se that would be reported to the credit agency if you are making your payments on time, but it would still be evident in a records search.

“The bottom line is that a debt other than to your Uncle Bob that you either don’t make payments on or pay in cash, we’ll probably find it,” says Fleming.

Offense No. 3: Hiding your down payment source

We get it: Amassing a down payment can be hard. That’s why it might make sense to borrow money from a relative—especially one who doesn’t ask for interest. However, it still counts as a debt if you are expected to pay it back.

Lenders need to see a complete financial picture before they commit to making you a loan; that includes all the debts you owe, because they affect the funds you have available to make that mortgage payment each month.

Although a lender won’t accept your down payment if it includes a debt you have to pay back, the lender is almost always cool if it’s a gift. So cross your fingers that Mom, Dad, or Uncle Bob are in a giving mood and make sure you have a letter from them specifying they don’t expect the funds to be repaid.

Bottom line?

“There truly are loan programs for almost every person and every circumstance out there,” Fleming says. “You may have to pay a few dollars more each month than you otherwise would, but mortgage fraud is not worth the risk.”

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Light It Up: 6 Glow-in-the-Dark Home Decor Ideas

If your place is a little drab, consider this bright idea as a pick-me-up: glow-in-the-dark home decor. That’s right, luminescent accessories aren’t just for kid parties and raves—they have also found a permanent spot in people’s homes, in the form of tiles, pavers, murals, and more. Check out these illuminating ideas to see all the ways you can make some magic happen. In the dark!



Turn on the tile

If making a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom has you stumbling and fumbling, you can put an end to these problems with glow-in-the-dark tile ($47 per square foot at Susan Jablon Mosaics).

Available in turquoise and sky blue, they give off a soft glow—much gentler than harsh overhead lighting—without upping your electric bill. Aside from bathrooms, we could see these looking amazing in kitchens (midnight snack, anyone?) and swimming pools, too.


Driveway meets runway

These glow stones will turn your average driveway into something straight out of a fairy tale. Whether you want to up the wow factor before your next dinner party or just add a touch of whimsy to your yard, these photo-luminescent pebble aggregates should do the trick ($20 per 1-pound bag of 135 stones at Core Glow).

These stones—made of glass, marble, or synthetic resin—contain a proprietary luminescent material that soaks up sunlight, then maintains an afterglow for up to 12 hours, just in time for sunrise. Color choices include blue, green, pink, purple, white, and yellow. They can be used indoors as well.

So what happens if a stone is swallowed by Fido? Never fear, these stones are nonradioactive and nontoxic.

Paving the way

To make your pool or patio pop, you can use glow-in-the-dark pavers ($12 for seven lights at The markers are each fixed to a 2.5-inch nail so you can drive them into the ground. By day, they look like any other border as they absorb light, but at night they’ll light up your garden path or walkway in style.

Luminous lumber

These tricked-out tree trunks bring a touch of cool to your outdoor space—and your guests should have no trouble finding a seat. Artist Judson Beaumont of Straight Line Design builds these on commission; prices vary depending on size and design, but your basic stump starts at $550.

Glow-in-the-dark murals

And let’s not forget the home inhabitants who probably appreciate glow-in-the-dark paint more than all others: kids. Honestly now, what little tyke (or hey, even teenager) wouldn’t love a room like this?

Artist and “neoluminist” Bogi Fabian painted the above masterpiece, but if you don’t have the cash to commission your very own mind-blowing mural, consider purchasing one of Fabian’s glow-in-the-dark prints. This moon print sells for just under $200 for a 24-inch, and approximately $390 for a 59-inch at

Or just get a can of glow-in-the-dark paint!

Probably the cheapest way to get your glow on at home is by picking up a can of glow-in-the dark paint ($10 for a 10-ounce can of Rust-Oleum, at most hardware stores or on

For best results, Rust-Oleum recommends that you apply this paint to a white or light-covered surface. You can paint anything: planters, furniture, ceramic tile, the insides of your cabinets, and more. Here are some surprising things you’ve never considered painting but should.

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7 Cute Yet Cringeworthy Ways Your Pets Can Wreck a Home Sale

You love your pets, but the people checking out your house in the hope of buying it may not share your ardor. The mere sight of these furry creatures can tip the scales, for some buyers, against making an offer on your property at all. Perhaps you only want animal lovers to inherit your home—but if you’re a come-one-come-all kind of home seller, you may want to try to avoid the seven deadly home-sale saboteurs that are listed below. We’ll show you how.

Tufts of fur

Just when you think you’ve got it all vacuumed up, you spot drifts of fur under tables and stuck to upholstery.

“A lightly dampened sponge is perfect for removing pet hair on furniture and fabric,” says Danessa Itaya, vice president of Maid Right, a home-cleaning service. Alternatively, you can try lint rollers and squeegees, adds Nancy Jones, an interior decorator with Showhomes, a home-staging company.

“We also use pet hair gloves that are designed specifically for cleaning up fur,” Jones says. You should also get in the habit of brushing your pet regularly—and doing this outside. Apply a minivacuum directly to his coat, as shown below. Really.

Floor stains

If your feline likes to cough up grass clippings in the hall or pee under the basement workbench, a potential buyer will likely note the discoloration and either wince or run (or perhaps wince, then run). Carpet and floor stains need to be fixed before any showings. If you can swing it, replace the rug, or at least roll it up and stash it in the garage. Hire a flooring professional to remove tougher stains, either by sanding and re-staining a wood floor or dealing them with a commercial-grade cleanser.

That aroma

You’re so accustomed to—and in love with—your pet that you no longer realize she’s given your home a certain scent … but rest assured, visitors will pick up on it as soon as they set foot through your front door. In some cases, before they set foot through the door. The remedy? Good ol’ baking soda, which is safe and effective, says Itaya.

“You can sprinkle it in your cat’s litter box as a deodorizer or put a small amount in a spray bottle with water to apply to your pet’s favorite hiding spots,” she says. And if the smells haven’t been absorbed by the carpet padding, they can generally be lifted out with a pet enzyme removal product or Resolve, notes Jones. “There are also many candles and air fresheners that can eliminate odors without overpowering,” she says.

Pets on beds

Cats may have some leeway to nap on the bed, but the very presence of a dog on the couch or bed may scare some people off, often for good reason. When you’re getting ready for a showing, be sure your pooch is out of the bedrooms and either housed in his crate or shipped off to a friend or doggy day care for the afternoon. Then make sure there’s no telltale pet hair left behind.

Scratches and dings

Puppies will chew on just about anything, including chair legs, baseboards, and other wooden features in your home. If you see significant furniture damage, remove the pieces and store them during your next open house. But smaller marks can be hidden with a couple of DIY solutions.

“Felt-tip markers can make a world of difference on scratched-up furniture—find one that matches the color of the wood, and you’ll quickly transform dings so they’re less noticeable,” says Itaya. Jones likes Old English furniture polish to clean up pet scratches.

“It now comes in both light and dark versions and covers most surface marks,” she reports. To remove a deep scratch, use wood putty to fill in the grooves and follow up with a stain to match.

Pet accessories

You won’t impress a potential buyer if he or she has to dodge your pet’s toys in order to get inside the door. Remove these hazards by gathering up her chew things and placing them in a nice-looking basket or bin. You should also hang up your pup’s tangled pile of leashes, fold and straighten her outfits and jackets if she has any, and stash pet beds until the showing is over.

Bowls and litter box

Water dishes and pet food bowls are easily knocked over, so be sure to dump them out and load them in the dishwasher before an open house begins. Of course, you’ll scoop out the cat box so that it’s as clean as possible, but it’s better to get rid of it entirely. Not only does it smell, but it’s just plain gross to catch sight of that gravelly stuff.

“If you must have a litter box around, I usually suggest the clumping kind [of litter] because it’s easier to clean,” Jones recommends. And if your visitors are coming with pets, be sure to spray neutralizers on the areas where they migrate, to prevent dogs or cats from marking their territory.

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5 Ways to Save on Home Renovation Costs So You Don’t Go Broke

Is your kitchen hopelessly outdated, and your bathroom a blast from the past? Then it sounds like you’re overdue for some home improvements. There’s just one problem: Remodeling can be a huge undertaking—and a costly one at that. The average kitchen remodel will set you back $60,000; a bathroom overhaul, $17,908. Ouch! But hey, that’s just the average price homeowners pay. Plenty of home renovations can fall way under that wire if you know some tricks to keep your home improvement budget in check. Check out these smart ways to save on home renovation costs to achieve the home of your dreams without blowing wads of cash.

1. Don’t do a complete remodel

Unless the room needs to be completely gutted, you can cut costs by refurbishing existing fixtures. When renovating the kitchen, staining the current cabinetry, replacing old drawer handles and knobs, and refacing moldings can save you thousands of dollars.

In fact, refinishing existing cabinets can save you up to 50% compared with the cost of buying new cabinetry, according to Angie’s List. You can also cut costs by purchasing materials (e.g., granite, flooring, or lighting) yourself, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

2. Pick decent, midgrade materials

Picking premium options or materials can raise the cost of your remodeling project substantially. One area where you’ll find a major price difference? Carpeting.

While basic olefin and polyester carpeting costs around $1 to $2 per square foot, wool can cost upward of $9 to $11 per square foot, according to Angie’s List. Those costs add up if you’re recarpeting a large room or an entire floor.

Another biggie? Countertops: Granite costs $60 to $100 per square foot; laminate (i.e., Formica) looks like granite for $10 to $40 per square foot.

3. Do prep work yourself

To reduce the hours your contractors will need to put in—and save money on labor—do light prep work yourself, says Dossman. By removing and discarding old carpeting on your own, for example, you’ll shave time off the installer’s bill, which can lead to substantial savings when you consider that many companies charge an additional $4 per yard to remove old carpet.

4. Go DIY, but know your limits

Another way to cut remodeling costs is, of course, to do the work yourself. That’s a good move for small projects, like painting a bedroom, where the work is fairly simple. Also, the materials you’ll need, including paint, brushes, sandpaper, and tape, cost only $100 to $200. (Professional painters, meanwhile, charge $25 to $100 an hour.)

With larger projects, however, rolling up your sleeves probably isn’t the best decision—especially if you lack handy skills. For major home improvement projects, you’ll most likely want to hire a professional to do the work—it’ll cost more, but it’s worth it. Let’s face it: The last thing you want to do is cheap out and need to pay a second contractor to redo the work.

5. Shop around for the best (and budget-friendly) contractor

Last but not least, a home remodeling project is only as good as whom you hire. It’s crucial to find a reliable contractor who will quote you a fair price and deliver high-quality work. To find this special someone, you’ll want to meet with at least three contractors and get in-person bids. Doing so will give you a good idea of the price range; it’ll also give you a sense of whether you’d be comfortable working with the person.

When vetting contractors, pay attention to small details, like whether they show up on time for the appointment. Punctuality indicates whether the person is well-organized, which can affect how much you’ll have to pay, says Matt Parker, a real estate agent in Seattle and author of “Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide.”

If a contractor has a habit of running behind schedule, that might affect how long the project will take to complete—and how many hours of labor you’ll need to pay for. The adage “time is money” can be painfully true when contractors are involved, so you want someone who takes yourtime seriously.

Another money-saving safety measure: Insist on seeing all renovation estimates in writing, and get a cap on the hours if possible. Meanwhile, a punch list can ensure that the renovation isn’t officially done until you’re satisfied. Any contractor who isn’t willing to provide this par-for-the-course paperwork may not be worth the trouble, because it protects you both in case any part of your renovation goes off the rails.

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Creamy casseroles are a favorite when the weather gets chilly, but they’re not always Paleo diet friendly. This easy broccoli casserole recipe layers chicken with vegetables for a filling and comforting meal. Crisp bacon and crunchy almonds give it that casserole-like top, without starchy breadcrumbs or cheese.


1/2 head(s) broccoli, cut into thin slices
3/4 head(s) cauliflower, cut into thin slices
1/2 pound(s) mushrooms, sliced
2 piece(s) chicken breast(s), boneless skinless (4-6 oz)
1 cup(s) coconut milk, full fat
1 large egg(s)
1/2 cup(s) chicken broth
1/2 cup(s) almonds, sliced
4 slice(s) bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon(s) coconut oil, for cooking chicken
1/8 teaspoon(s) sea salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon(s) black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1 TB coconut oil or other cooking oil of your choice when hot.
  2. Season chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper if desired and sauté for 10-15 minutes, turning once or twice until fully cooked. Chop into bite-size pieces.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Layer the broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and cooked chicken in a (9×13) casserole dish, seasoning with salt and pepper between each layer.
  5. In a bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the coconut milk with the egg and chicken broth until well combined. Pour over the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with almonds and bacon. Bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes until almonds are lightly toasted and casserole is bubbly. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

5 Things You Should Never Say When Getting a Mortgage

Being an open book is a great quality to exhibit to your BFF or significant other (well, usually), but it can get you into hot water with your lender when you’re trying to buy a home. Now, let’s be clear: We are not advocating in any way, shape, or form that you lie to your lender or withhold pertinent information when you’re getting a mortgage.

But there are some topics that you just don’t need to bring up, because they wave unnecessary red flags that can lead to lots of extra paperwork and raise questions about whether you can really afford that mortgage. Just ask Cheryll LeBlanc, a loan officer at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. in Holden, MA, who weighed in on some doozies she’s heard over the years.

“When I hear statements like (these), it makes me pause, kind of turn my head sideways, and say ‘Hmmm…’” she says.

Here are some crazy things would-be home buyers have said to lenders, and why they’re cause for concern.

1. ‘I need to get an extra insurance quote due to … (fill in the blank)’:

  • Crime rates in the area
  • Potential flooding
  • Earthquake zone

Asking questions about insurance could indicate the house is in a high-risk zone, and we “now have to underwrite the borrower and the property with a different and more intense default lens,” says Bill Dallas, CEO and co-founder of Cloudvirga. If your home is in a designated flood hazard area, flood insurance is mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Otherwise, it might well be a good idea, but you don’t have to mention it.

2. ‘I can’t believe how much work the house needs before we move in’

Have you ever seen a home inspection report? It’s a stack of 20 to 50 pages containing every little nuance that needs to be fixed in a home. It’s crucial information for you, but you’ll want to hold off on mentioning the contents of it to your lender.

“When lenders see a home inspection report, they freak out and begin to ask for a lot of conditions to make sure these issues won’t grow into bigger problems and halt borrower payments,” Dallas says.

Best-case scenario: The lender will ask for a lot of information. The worst case is it will ask for a lot of money to be escrowed to make the repairs.

“Avoid any mention of what your inspector found,” Dallas says. “The appraisal comments create enough challenges.”

3. ‘Please don’t tell my spouse what’s on my credit report’

First off, this makes lenders cringe because they’re wondering just how much debt you have, LeBlanc notes. Or what else you’re trying to hide.

But, the bottom line, she says, is that it’s all going to be revealed on an application.

“I’ve been in face-to-face appointments with clients and when I pulled their credit—one of the parties is crying as the extent of debt is coming out,” she says.

She advises couples make sure both parties are clear on each other’s debts and that they get the animosity out before sitting down for a pre-qualification or pre-approval.

4. ‘I’m still working out the details on my down payment’

“Lenders like to see that borrowers have ‘skin in the game,’ so the down payment source is critical,” Dallas says.

Any borrowed funds, gift funds, and increases in CLTV, or combined loan to value ratio, mean there’s an increase in the chances of default, he says.

“Fraud is the biggest risk in lending, and down payment fraud is the second-highest kind, after income fraud,” he notes.

Down payment fraud could comprise a number of things: Perhaps the borrower says it’s a gift but it actually has to be repaid, or the borrower got a loan to pay for it (which is a no-no). Or perhaps the buyer borrows the down payment from the seller and does a silent second mortgage to pay it back.

That’s why lenders will request a paper trail for any gifted funds.

If you do plan to use a gift for your down payment, the donor must be an immediate family member, must provide copies of bank statements confirming the donor has the capacity to gift the funds, and must sign a letter that states the money is a gift, not a loan.

5. ‘I can’t wait to use the hot tub I’m buying on the side from the seller’

If the hot tub comes with the house and it’s written into the contract, then you’re in the clear. But if you’ve negotiated for something on the side with the seller, you’ll be in hot water—and we’re not talking about the kind with bubbles.

“Buyers have to sign a document at the closing, which states that no money has exchanged hands between the buyer and seller outside the closing,” says Lauren LoMonaco, managing partner of Chicago law firm LoMonaco & LoMonaco.

If you mention a side deal to your lender, it’s going to raise major red flags. But don’t withhold the info, either—if you do and you’re found out, you could be charged with mortgage fraud, and that’s a felony. So whether it’s a lawn mower, flat-screen TV, or that sweet hot tub out back, make sure you disclose it in the contract.

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4 Worst Color Combos to Ever Curse a Home—Proven!

When it comes to selecting paint colors for a room, anyone can find one color that works, but two? Just like playing matchmaker to your friends, pairing two hues is really, really hard. Want proof? Check out these clashing color combos below, plus recommendations for infinitely more appealing duos to try instead.

Bad color combo No. 1: Warm with cool

Dee Schlotter and Misty Yeomans, color experts for Glidden, Olympic, and PPG Paints, suggest avoiding color combinations that mix warm and cool colors.

Warm colors tend to advance toward us, creating a friendly atmosphere,” Schlotter says. “Cool colors tend to recede away from us, creating a spacious feeling. When you mix them, they compete.”




Instead: Match like with like. Schlotter urges homeowners to use warm colors with other warm colors, or cool colors with other cool colors.


Bad color combo No. 2: Holiday duos

“While red and green are complementary colors on the color wheel, and can look nice together, it’s important to not create a palette that is often associated with certain holidays, or use colors together that create a ‘vibration’ due to similarities in intensity,” explains Yeomans.



Instead: If you want to go for the spirit of merry and bright holiday-style colors, Yeomans recommends pairing them with neutral shades. For example, this cheery cherry is offset beautifully by a soothing gray.

Bad color combo No. 3: Dark with dark

Remember to take into consideration the fixed elements of your home, such as the color of flooring, furniture, or, for exterior projects, the colors in stone, brick, siding, and more, color experts suggest.

“If you have dark wood featured throughout your home, you should try to avoid dark paint colors,” notes Schlotter.




Instead: To create a complementary look between your home’s fixed elements and your paint colors, pair dark wood with lighter shades.

Bad color combo No. 4: Bold with bright

“I was fascinated by the sudden shift to neon palettes,” says Juan Pablo Madrid, a home design expert at Online Optimism. “Yet while they’re picking up in popularity, it’s wise to limit the use of these bold shades since they’re super-stimulating and can cause you to squint. It’s also best not to pair them with each other.”

“Bright colors are great, but they should be used sparingly, and we don’t recommend them for the exterior of a home,” agrees Courtney Heaton, owner of Courtney Heaton Design.

“If you like some of these bright colors, we’d suggest using them as accents with pillows, bedding, or curtains. Brights are fun for kids’ rooms and family rooms; but stay away from them in bathrooms and limit them for the master bedroom.”


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Dogs and Water Safety

Water can be a great source of fun for you and your dog. Before you take your pooch out for a paddle, though, make sure you know how to keep things safe.


You might think canines are natural-born swimmers, but that isn’t always the case.

There’s no sure way to gauge your pal’s swimming skills until you introduce him to H2O and teach him the basics:

  • Choose a quiet, shallow spot in the water.
  • Keep your dog on a leash while he learns.
  • Get into the water with him.
  • Start at the edge of the water, and stay as long as he enjoys it.
  • If he doesn’t want to go, don’t force him in — especially if it’s a deep spot.
  • When your dog begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs to show him how to float.

The younger your buddy is when you teach him to swim, the better. Keep the lesson positive and stress-free for him.

At the Beach

While you enjoy the surf with your pal, keep these tips in mind:

  • Watch out for strong currents and riptides, which can take you both out to sea. Even the best swimmer can be in danger when seas are rough.
  • Don’t let your dog drink ocean water. It can make him sick. Bring fresh H2O with you to keep him hydrated.
  • Keep your pal away from fish that have washed onto the shore. They may smell great to him, but they can make him ill.

In the Pool

Got a swimming hole in your backyard? Keep it Fido-friendly with these steps:

  • Put a fence around it to keep your dog out when it isn’t time to swim.
  • Keep a sturdy cover over it when you aren’t using it. It should be made of a material that lets rainwater drain through. Dogs can drown in puddles on top of pool covers.
  • Teach your dog how to get in and out. Make sure there are steps or a ramp he can use to climb out.
  • Check the water temperature before letting your dog take a dip. Only a few breeds can handle extra-cold water.

In a River, Lake, or Pond

Keep these tips in mind when you’re at Mother Nature’s water park:

  • Get your dog a life jacket, especially if you take him out on a boat or a dock.
  • Steer clear of bodies of water with blue-green algae. It can make your buddy sick.
  • Check the current of a river or a creek. Make sure it isn’t too strong to let your dog swim.
  • Keep your pal away from fishing gear. Sharp hooks and barbs can hurt him.

General Safety Rules

No matter where your pooch makes a splash, follow these pointers:

  • Rinse him off after he’s been in any type of water. Seawater minerals, salt, chlorine, algae, and pollution can irritate or damage his skin and fur.
  • Remove his flea collar before he swims. Water can wash off its active ingredients.
  • Dry your dog’s ears completely to prevent an infection. Try an ear cleaner that has a drying agent in it.
  • Learn canine CPR. Mouth-to-nose resuscitation and chest compressions could save a dog’s life in an emergency.
  • Never leave your pal alone in the water.

How to Unclog a Gutter

Unclog a blocked rain gutter as quickly as possible to prevent damage to your landscaping, home exterior, gutters, and foundation.

Clean your rain gutters at least twice a year. Otherwise, debris like leaves and twigs can clog up your gutter system, causing potential harm to your house and landscaping — not to mention the gutters themselves. Here’s how to identify and fix a clogged gutter.

Is My Gutter Clogged?

When it rains, here are the telltale signs of a clogged gutter:

  • Water spills over the edges of a gutter.
  • Water sprays like a fountain from gutter seams and elbow joints.
  • Water doesn’t flow out the bottom of downspout extensions.

If it’s not raining, look for these telltale signs:

  • Eroded earth directly below a gutter.
  • Peeling paint on siding and fascia.
  • Wet, moist, or dirty siding beneath the gutter.
  • Gutters pulling away from the fascia (likely caused by excessive weight).

Where’s the Gutter Clogged?

The downspout cage, a wire strainer designed to trap debris while allowing water to flow through, is located where the downspout intersects the gutter. Often, this item is bent or out of place.

Gutter hangers and spikes often slip free from the fascia, landing in the gutter. These obstructions catch leaves and twigs, causing clogs.

Downspout elbows and seams are likely spots for clogs, too. Working your way down from the gutter, tap the outside of the downspout with a screwdriver and listen for a dull thud (as opposed to hollow ring). This will indicate the location of the clog.

If you still haven’t identified the location of the clog — and you have downspouts that descend below ground level — then the clog likely is in an underground pipe.

How to Unclog a Gutter

If the clog occurs at the downspout cage:

  1. Remove and clean it.
  2. Remove all the accumulated debris in the gutter.
  3. If the cage is in good shape, firmly re-seat it into the downspout hole.
  4. If the cage is damaged or missing, replacement screens cost just a few bucks.

If the clog is caused by loose hangers or spikes:

  1. Clean debris from clogs.
  2. Reposition or repair the gutter supports.

If the clog occurs at an elbow or seam — and you can reach it from above:

  1. Try to free the obstruction with a stick, plumbing snake, or pressure washer outfitted with a telescoping wand.
  2. If you can’t reach it, simply disassemble the downspout and remove the clog.

If the clog is below-grade, it’s the most difficult to clear, and may require excavation. But before that:

  1. Remove the downspout where it enters the ground and try to clear the clog using a plumbing snake.
  2. Turn on a garden hose and force it into the underground portion of the line; the water pressure may dislodge the clog.